geiger faq's
Frequently Asked Questions

Q.     What does the name Geiger mean?

A.      The surname Geiger is a German word meaning fiddler or musician.  The earliest men given the surname Geiger were village musicians or fiddlers. Since every town might have its own fiddler the surname has no one single family that it can be traced to.  Not all Geigers are related no matter how far back in time you can trace them.

Q.    Why are there so many variations in spelling for the surname Geiger?

A.     Originally the surname may have been spelled Gyger, Giger, or Gieger if the family was Swiss and more likely Geiger if the family was German.  After arriving in America the name may have sounded closer to Kiger or Kyger or even Geeger or Gigger.  Many of our immigrant Geiger ancestors could neither read nor write, and almost always had no firm sense of one specific spelling for their surname even if they could write. They were left to the mercy of the authorities to spell the surname for them.  On occasion the surname is spelled more than one way within the same document.  Over a period of time the changed spellings, which usually corresponded to the way the surname sounded, became fixed as the permanent surname.  At times the changes may have been deliberate to make the name more Americanized, but usually it was a gradual evolution by chance.  There are many subtle vowel sounds in the German language that can't be duplicated in English, which only adds to the confusion in spelling of this, and other, surnames.

Q.     I have been told that my Geigers were "Black Dutch."  What are the Black Dutch?

A.      From the German Research Companion by Shirley J. Riemer: "Black Dutch"

"Although the term 'Black Dutch' has been used to denote a number of different ethnic or cultural groups, there seems to be little agreement as to just what the phrase means.

Several genealogical organizations have made attempts to investigate the origin of the term 'Black Dutch,' yet no specific clarification, no pedigree charts, and no documentation of any kind have been forthcoming.

Numerous accounts have circulated to the effect that the 'Black Dutch' can be identified as groups of Irish, Cherokee, Amish, Swiss, Sephardic Jews, Dutch-Indonesians, and Hollanders--to name just a few.

The conclusion drawn by those who have attempted to define the term is that 'Black Dutch' ancestry seems to be based on folklore and hearsay."

Q.      Is any one religion associated with the Geigers?

A.      No.  The Geiger surname can be associated with any religion.  Many Swiss and German Geigers were Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and even Mennonite.  In America they branched out into other religions including the Church of the Brethren and the Evangelical United Brethren.  A few Kigers can be found in Quaker records.  Some Geigers are Jewish.  The surname is no clue as to the religion of the family.

Q.  I am new to the study of my family history--where should I begin?

A.      You always should begin the search for your ancestors with yourself, and work your way back from what you know to what you don't know.  You must take one generation, and one fact, at a time.  In doing so you very often reach a point at which further primary records are not available.  You hit the proverbial "brick wall."  At this point it is common to begin looking for someone who fits the picture to be the ancestor you are searching for. This point in your research is critical, since you must be extremely careful not to jump to conclusions in making a connection. Many resources are available for you by searching from the links found on this Website.  Happy hunting!

Q.  What is the Geiger Coat-of-Arms?

A.     There is no Coat-of-Arms granted to a surname.  Coats-of-Arms are granted to individuals who then pass them down to their heirs.  Since not all Geigers are from one direct lineage there is no one standard Coat-of-Arms for ALL Geigers.  In order to know whether your particular Geiger family had a Coat-of-Arms granted to it it would be necessary to trace your Geigers back to an ancestor who was granted his own Coat-of-Arms.  You will often find businesses in shopping malls, and through direct marketing, who claim to offer your family Coat-of-Arms.  What these businesses are offering is a generic Coat-of-Arms designed often with some integrity as to the meaning of the surname, but having nothing to do with an actual family Coat-of-Arms.  In the case of the Geiger surname very often the Coat-of-Arms will have a fiddle somewhere on it due to the meaning of the name Geiger. In some cases the Coat-of-Arms may be an actual Coat-of-Arms for some Geiger family, but quite possibly not your own.

Copyright© 1998 by Joan M Young

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